Archive for unbiasedness

invertible flow non equilibrium sampling (InFiNE)

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2021 by xi'an

With Achille Thin and a few other coauthors [and friends], we just arXived a paper on a new form of importance sampling, motivated by a recent paper of Rotskoff and Vanden-Eijnden (2019) on non-equilibrium importance sampling. The central ideas of this earlier paper are the introduction of conformal Hamiltonian dynamics, where a dissipative term is added to the ODE found in HMC, namely

\dfrac{\text d p_t}{\text dt}=-\dfrac{\partial}{\partial q}H(q_t,p_t)-\gamma p_t=-\nabla U(q_t)-\gamma p_t

which means that all orbits converge to fixed points that satisfy ∇U(q) = 0 as the energy eventually vanishes. And the property that, were T be a conformal Hamiltonian integrator associated with H, i.e. perserving the invariant measure, averaging over orbits of T would improve the precision of Monte Carlo unbiased estimators, while remaining unbiased. The fact that Rotskoff and Vanden-Eijnden (2019) considered only continuous time makes their proposal hard to implement without adding approximation error, while our approach is directly set in discrete-time and preserves unbiasedness. And since measure preserving transforms are too difficult to come by, a change of variable correction, as in normalising flows, allows for an arbitrary choice of T, while keeping the estimator unbiased. The use of conformal maps makes for a natural choice of T in this context.

The resulting InFiNE algorithm is an MCMC particular algorithm which can be represented as a  partially collapsed Gibbs sampler when using the right auxiliary variables. As in Andrieu, Doucet and Hollenstein (2010) and their ISIR algorithm. The algorithm can be used for estimating normalising constants, comparing favourably with AIS, sampling from complex targets, and optimising variational autoencoders and their ELBO.

I really appreciated working on this project, with links to earlier notions like multiple importance sampling à la Owen and Zhou (2000), nested sampling, non-homogeneous normalising flows, measure estimation à la Kong et al. (2002), on which I worked in a more or less distant past.

re-reading Halmos (1946)

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , on May 16, 2020 by xi'an

Based on a (basic) question on X validated, I re-read Halmos‘ (1946) famous paper on the non-existence of centred moments of order larger than the sample size. While the exposition may sound a wee bit daunting, the reasoning is essentially based on a recursion and the binomial theorem, since expanding the kth power leads to lesser moments, all of which can be estimated from a subsample.

unbiased MCMC discussed at the RSS tomorrow night

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2019 by xi'an

The paper ‘Unbiased Markov chain Monte Carlo methods with couplings’ by Pierre Jacob et al. will be discussed (or Read) tomorrow at the Royal Statistical Society, 12 Errol Street, London, tomorrow night, Wed 11 December, at 5pm London time. With a pre-discussion session at 3pm, involving Chris Sherlock and Pierre Jacob, and chaired by Ioanna Manolopoulou. While I will alas miss this opportunity, due to my trip to Vancouver over the weekend, it is great that that the young tradition of pre-discussion sessions has been rekindled as it helps put the paper into perspective for a wider audience and thus makes the more formal Read Paper session more profitable. As we discussed the paper in Paris Dauphine with our graduate students a few weeks ago, we will for certain send one or several written discussions to Series B!

unbiased estimators that do not exist

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on January 21, 2019 by xi'an

When looking at questions on X validated, I came across this seemingly obvious request for an unbiased estimator of P(X=k), when X~B(n,p). Except that X is not observed but only Y~B(s,p) with s<n. Since P(X=k) is a polynomial in p, I was expecting such an unbiased estimator to exist. But it does not, for the reasons that Y only takes s+1 values and that any function of Y, including the MLE of P(X=k), has an expectation involving monomials in p of power s at most. It is actually straightforward to establish properly that the unbiased estimator does not exist. But this remains an interesting additional example of the rarity of the existence of unbiased estimators, to be saved until a future mathematical statistics exam!

the [not so infamous] arithmetic mean estimator

Posted in Books, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2018 by xi'an

“Unfortunately, no perfect solution exists.” Anna Pajor

Another paper about harmonic and not-so-harmonic mean estimators that I (also) missed came out last year in Bayesian Analysis. The author is Anna Pajor, whose earlier note with Osiewalski I also spotted on the same day. The idea behind the approach [which belongs to the branch of Monte Carlo methods requiring additional simulations after an MCMC run] is to start as the corrected harmonic mean estimator on a restricted set A as to avoid tails of the distributions and the connected infinite variance issues that plague the harmonic mean estimator (an old ‘Og tune!). The marginal density p(y) then satisfies an identity involving the prior expectation of the likelihood function restricted to A divided by the posterior coverage of A. Which makes the resulting estimator unbiased only when this posterior coverage of A is known, which does not seem realist or efficient, except if A is an HPD region, as suggested in our earlier “safe” harmonic mean paper. And efficient only when A is well-chosen in terms of the likelihood function. In practice, the author notes that P(A|y) is to be estimated from the MCMC sequence and that the set A should be chosen to return large values of the likelihood, p(y|θ), through importance sampling, hence missing somehow the double opportunity of using an HPD region. Hence using the same default choice as in Lenk (2009), an HPD region which lower bound is derived as the minimum likelihood in the MCMC sample, “range of the posterior sampler output”. Meaning P(A|y)=1. (As an aside, the paper does not produce optimality properties or even heuristics towards efficiently choosing the various parameters to be calibrated in the algorithm, like the set A itself. As another aside, the paper concludes with a simulation study on an AR(p) model where the marginal may be obtained in closed form if stationarity is not imposed, which I first balked at, before realising that even in this setting both the posterior and the marginal do exist for a finite sample size, and hence the later can be estimated consistently by Monte Carlo methods.) A last remark is that computing costs are not discussed in the comparison of methods.

The final experiment in the paper is aiming at the marginal of a mixture model posterior, operating on the galaxy benchmark used by Roeder (1990) and about every other paper on mixtures since then (incl. ours). The prior is pseudo-conjugate, as in Chib (1995). And label-switching is handled by a random permutation of indices at each iteration. Which may not be enough to fight the attraction of the current mode on a Gibbs sampler and hence does not automatically correct Chib’s solution. As shown in Table 7 by the divergence with Radford Neal’s (1999) computations of the marginals, which happen to be quite close to the approximation proposed by the author. (As an aside, the paper mentions poor performances of Chib’s method when centred at the posterior mean, but this is a setting where the posterior mean is meaningless because of the permutation invariance. As another, I do not understand how the RMSE can be computed in this real data situation.) The comparison is limited to Chib’s method and a few versions of arithmetic and harmonic means. Missing nested sampling (Skilling, 2006; Chopin and X, 2011), and attuned importance sampling as in Berkoff et al. (2003), Marin, Mengersen and X (2005), and the most recent Lee and X (2016) in Bayesian Analysis.

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